LOS ANGELES — Comedian and actress Mo’Nique sued Netflix Thursday, alleging pay discrimination based on race and gender.
The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint alleges that Netflix’s management is insensitive and discriminatory toward black workers and perpetuates pay inequity, especially against black women.
“Netflix is one of Hollywood’s most innovative companies, yet it not only perpetuates racial and gender inequality, it also takes advantage of a gender pay gap that disproportionately affects black women, who nationwide, make only 61 cents for every dollar white males bring home,” according to plaintiff’s attorney Michael Parks. “When Mo’Nique, one of the most well-known black female comedians in America, faced that anachronistic attitude, she knew it was time to challenge the status quo.”
Netflix released a statement disputing the claims. “We care deeply about inclusion, equity and diversity and take any accusations of discrimination very seriously,” the statement read. “We believe our opening offer to Mo’Nique was fair, which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit.”
Netflix’s dominance of the stand-up comedy market has a particularly negative effect for black female comedians the network hires for comedy specials, the lawsuit alleges. After being aggressively recruited by Nexflix’s stand-up programming staff, Mo’Nique was offered $500,000 for a comedy special for which she would contribute the content, while Netflix would retain copyright and total control of almost every other aspect of the production and distribution, the suit states.
The offer paled in comparison to what Netflix consistently pays both white comedians and black male comedians for similar work, the suit states.
White comedians and black male comedians received deals at or above $20 million per comedy special, the suit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that when Mo’Nique spoke up against what she believed was a discriminatory offer, Netflix retaliated by refusing to negotiate in good faith with her. In contrast, when white female comedian Amy Schumer was initially offered $11 million for an hour-long comedy program, Netflix negotiated in good faith with Schumer and upped its offer to $13 million, the suit states.